27 Nov 83
Dear Diane & Family,
I don't know what's the matter with our mail system. You weren't supposed to get your package quite so early. But I guess early is better than late. The ornament is indeed from Italy. It is an ANRI. Anris are hand carved wood and hand painted. They are expensive here and twice as expensive in the States. My neighbor collect them. She bought two 5" figures the other day for $80.00. In the States they would have cost $95 a piece! I nearly passed out. She belongs to the Anri Club and showed me all the figures on them. However, I don't believe these ornaments are wood, do you? They may be hand painted. I bought us a few. I only paid £9500 for each them which is about $6.50 each. I have a feeling they mass produce these ornaments which is why they are not as expensive as their regular stuff. I guess they are the Italian equivalent to Hummel's (the regular figures, that is). Anyway, they are sweet and I thought of Laura and her fondness for such things when I saw them.
I don't tell you all these prices of things to be showy or anything. I just think it's interesting to compare prices here with the States. So many things are so much cheaper here, but a lot of things are very expensive here. Italians have to spend a fortune for beef, electricity, gasoline, cigarettes, etc. Fortunately, we can buy all that kind of stuff, except electricity, at the Navy Exchange. A small roast would cost an Italian about $25.00. I think they pay over $3.00 for a gallon of gas.
Yes, we enjoyed our trip to Rome. The kids were well behaved. We had shown them pictures before hand so they knew about columns, arches and the Colosseum. Angelique really enjoyed the Colosseum. We got some pictures of them in the Roman Forum. It was much bigger than I thought it would be.
Last Saturday before Thanksgiving we went to Herculaneum with our archeology club & Professor d'Ambrosio. Herculaneum was destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD with Pompei. Only it was covered by volcanic mud instead of ashes. The houses are more intact so you can tell a little more about the old Roman home life. Professor d'Ambrosio ran into Professor Maggi (sp?) who is in charge of the excavations there. Since we were Americans from NATO and America has poured so much money into Herculaneum, he allowed us to go into the restricted area where they were excavating. We got to see the Roman boat, that was pictured in the December 1982 National Geographic, and a tunnel-like area where there were gobs of skeletons on the beach, trapped before they could escape by boat. We felt very fortunate to see these things since they won't be open to the public for many years probably. It makes one rather fearful of Mt. Vesuvius which is "suppose" to be asleep at the present time.
Thanksgiving went well. Since we had 25 people from church at our house for dinner, I didn't find much time to miss being home. That was a smart thing to do - keep busy! Faye cooked the turkey. I fixed 2 four-pound hams, baked beans, broccoli casserole, rocky road cake and Mother's refrigerator rolls - well almost Mother's refrigerator rolls. She sent me her "recipe," but you know how she measures things. Actually, they were OK, but not as good as hers. I had trouble finding a warm enough place to let them rise. Everyone brought food. We had enough to feed all of Lago Patria. I still have leftovers.
Yesterday was fun. We went to Caserta - a town about 45 minutes from here and about the size of Fort Smith. We toured the Palace there that dates back to the 1700's. It is impressive. Angelique enjoyed seeing where Kings & Queens lived and Prince & Princesses used to play. She tried to imagine where a little princess might ride her tricycle. After that we went to the Caserta market. It is huge and has everything from bathroom sink stoppers to brass, shoes, clothing, material, food - you name it. I bought material to make curtains for my bedroom & dining room (finally). A lot of people don't hang curtains so I'm not really too slow. All of our windows have shutters, but they block out the light as well as the view. We bought Angelique some red sweater tights. I also bought two brass kerosene lamps. They are pretty, but will have to be polished periodically. Our electricity is so unreliable here, especially when it is raining or the humidity is high, that we have to have alternative light sources.
I'm so tired of being cold. Our radiators are still not working. Our landlord will get them working for a while and then they will go out again. We have 3 kerosene heaters, but they don't put out a lot of heat and no where near warm the whole house. Besides, they make my eyes itch. It's only getting into the 40's outside at night. Unfortunately, it gets into the 40's inside our house, too, sometimes at night. Angelique & we now have electric blankets on our beds, but poor Steven hasn't learned to stay under the covers when he sleeps.
I'm now writing this letter by a small battery-operated lamp. The electricity has gone out again for about the 6th time today. While I was writing that sentence, the electricity came back on. It rained last night and the humidity is so high today that everything feels damp - even this paper. I'm not sure why that affects the electricity, but it does. Something gets shorted out, I guess. Angelique has her own little battery lamp for her bedroom and Granny Lee sent her a small flashlight, so now she rather enjoys (somewhat) the electricity going out instead of getting upset.
We'll be getting a Christmas tree soon I hope. Italians are just now working Xmas trees into their traditions. Yesterday at Euromercato (the closest thing they have to a K-Mart here) they had Xmas balls, lights, tinsels and artificial trees for sale. We bought a string of Christmas ball lights that say "Buon Natale" on them a few weeks ago. I think NSA (the Navy Base) will have some real trees shipped in from Northern Italy. I hope I'm lucky enough to get one before they are all sold out.
Did I tell you we were able to get a kitchen set like Laura's for Angelique for Christmas? We were - and we did. We'll put it downstairs & turn part of that room into a playroom. I hope she'll enjoy it. She's been asking for a real toy car that you can pedal - which is what I got for Steven. I hope that doesn't cause problems.
Did you tape the ABC(?) movie about the nuclear bombing in Kansas by any chance? That got a lot of publicity in the Stars 'N Stripes newspaper. I understand it was rather controversial.
In my next letter I hope to include a sealed enveloped with a note inside explaining your Christmas presents. I guess it's too early to send it now since it might get lost before Christmas or you might be tempted to open it. (I hope I remember it.)
I'm glad I wasn't there for the last Little Rock Razorback game. It's bad enough to watch a game sitting in the rain. But to sit in the rain, watch your team lose and have it on national TV is just too much. Is the church all repaired now? Surely they had the place well insured. Did K-Mart or any other place get any damage? How about the houses behind the church? The Jack Justuses live back there. Was it a tornado or just high winds? Naples doesn't get tornados - only earth tremors.
Did you get most of your Christmas shopping done on your week off? I usually get my Xmas shopping down early, but I can't quit buying right up until Christmas. Then I end up with too much.
How was Thanksgiving? Is Brenda showing a lot? I guess they are excited about their new house. Did Mom & Dad agree on a lot? How were Lanney, Cheryl & Brandon? I rarely hear about them.
I was about to offer to buy you tickets for an opera in June that didn't exist. I got my composers mixed up. It was only a symphony and not an opera. (I thought June was awfully late for opera season.) Anyway - we're still tentatively holding the month of June open for you. Have you decided to come this summer or wait till 85? Either one will be fine with us. Just be sure to make your decision in time to get passports - and if you do decide to wait until 85, Don't change your minds and say, "They'll be back in 86"! That's the only qualm I have about your delaying. I don't want you to back out of coming.
Didn't I tell you the hospital here did get 12 wounded men from Beirut? I forget what I tell to whom. Michael was one of the 4 doctors who went to the airport for triage and to transport them back. He got to ride back to the hospital in a helicopter with one of the injured guys. Someone who was in Philadelphia at the time said they saw Michael on TV. Mother said she didn't see him though.
Starting next Monday, Michael will be the doctor at the Pinetamare clinic - about five miles from our house. He'll only go in to the hospital one half day a week. He's excited about getting away from the hospital bureaucracy even though this clinic is a branch of the hospital. He'll be more on his own and will be more like a private practice. Most of his patients are excited about it, too. Over 80% of the Americans live out in this area so he should build up quite a practice.
I've got to get to bed. Write soon.
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